Have you ever felt like you have so much to say, but you don't know where to start? Well that's how I feel right now. After all our community has been hit hard by tragedy theese past two weeks.
Personally, the past 14 days have been the most difficult period of my life. The day after I lost four colleagues to a tragic helicopter collision, my father died. And just last week, I found out the optimism that I had defeated cancer was a bit premature. The doctors tell me my cancer is growing and I will have to undergo more treatment.
But I don't want to focus on the negative. Instead, I'd like to share with you, what I consider, the most important lesson my father taught me before he died. And how that lesson is helping me cope with the loss of my friends and the fear that cancer can trigger.
First of all, allow me to introduce you to my father. Frank Camacho was born in 1921 here in Phoenix. He never knew his biological father who, according to family legend, probably was killed in the Mexican revolution. My father was a man of extraordinary intelligence. But because of the depression, he never made it passed the 8th grade. In fact, by the age of nine he was working full time in the cotton fields around Laveen while attending elementary school. He was beaten and verbally abused by his step-father. My father did not live an easy life. There were many disappointments in his life. But he rarely talked about them. My father was a success as a cotton farmer....until he lost everything in 1960 through a tragic combination of circumstance. My dad was happiest growing things. He truly was a "man of the earth."
In life, my father was fighter. He had to be in order to survive. His death mirrored his life. It was a struggle. About ten days before he died, an extraordinary event occurred. As he lay struggling to survive,
he looked up with a look of serenity that we hadn't seen in months.
He calmed down considerably and actually smiled as he weakly muttered, "Gracias. Gracias. Gracias." " Thank you. Thank you. Thank you." His face actually glowed with peace and joy. He told us that he was thanking God for the beautiful life that He had given him.
In so many ways, my dad had already said his goodbyes to us. One of the things he said repeatedly, was that his biggest regret was not being the best person he could've been. You see, my father was very human and made many mistakes. A few days later, he died.
His death came the day after my friends perished in a horrible accident. He died a day after a Phoenix police officer was gunned down in the line of duty. With all the grief, it took me a couple of days to see the gift my father had given me.
This simple, humble often grumpy man reminded me that, with all its heartbreak and disappointments, life is a beautiful and wonderful gift from God. It is a treasure that becomes apparent with a grateful heart and a willingness to take responsibility for your life.
Which brings me to Jim Cox, Rick Krolak, Scott Bowerbank, Craig Smith and Phoenix police officer, George Cortez. Of the five, I knew Jim and Rick the best. I know they lived life like it was a gift to be savored, enjoyed and not wasted. Virtues they had in common with Scott, Craig and George. My heart aches that these wonderful men are gone. But I thank God for their lives and the fact that I could call Jim Cox and Rick Krolak friends. For me at least, it makes their passing a little less painful. All of these men lived full lives. All too brief, but full nonetheless. I hope their families can take some solace in that knowledge.
I mourn them, as I mourn my father, with love and gratitude in my heart. It is love which will keep them alive in our hearts and in that wonderful gift of memory. In the catholic funeral service there is a beautiful line that says " Live has not ended. It has merely changed."
They are not dead. They are with us as long as the love we have for them lives because Love can never die.
The way they lived their lives inspires me as I prepare to do battle with cancer. They remind me that life is a gift from God. They remind me love is so much more powerful than anger and hate. They remind me that people are loving and caring. I'm amazed by the outpouring of community support. I know cancer will never win, no matter what happens.
I want to thank all of you who so beautifully have expressed your condolences on the death of my father. Words fail to convey how much your expressions of love have meant to me and my family.
Thank you again and please remember me in your prayers.